Western Wayne Drama Club Opens Annie Friday

Cast of Annie- Front row, from left: Haley Strocchia, Ava Compton, Sophia Conaway, Natasha Orehek, Larissa Ellsworth, Jenna Frable, Julia Phillips, and Alex Taylor. Second row, from left: Lily Visceglia, Sydney Peet, Andie Solimine, Amanda David, R.J. Clemens, and Sam Clemens. Third row, from left: Rebecca Boots, Brandon Davis, Hailey Lightbody, Kevin Franc, Dakota Beavers, Rhonda Fenkner, Angelina Tornillo, Lilly Morcom, Honour Shaffer, and Madison Kapschull. Absent from photo: John Nichols, Adam Kellogg, and Chaz Smith.

“When I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely / I just stick up my chin and grin and say the sun will come out tomorrow,” Annie sings this throughout the classic musical named after its leading lady.

          The curtain will rise for Western Wayne Drama Club’s production, of Annie, a show that will surely brighten up anyone’s day, at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 26, at the high school in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Additional performances will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 27; and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.  Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. Western Wayne students are free with a student ID.

          This production will leave audiences humming many of the classic songs from the show such as “Maybe,” “Easy Street,” and, of course, “Tomorrow.”  Audiences will even be treated to seeing Annie’s special guest star, local dog Daisy Press who will play Annie’s dog Sandy. 

Daisy’s owner is Mrs. Christine Press, treasurer of the Western Wayne Drama Parent Club, who is excited for her pup to make her acting debut on the Western Wayne stage.  Daisy attended the Drama Club’s character breakfast, which was sponsored and run by the Western Wayne Drama Parent Club, earlier this month and was a hit with kids of all ages.

          The Drama Parent Club will have a table of show memorabilia for sale at this weekend’s performances with all of the proceeds benefiting Western Wayne Drama Club students.  They will also sell raffle tickets throughout the weekend for a special Annie-themed teddy bear dressed like Annie. 

This bear was modeled after teddy bears auctioned off on Broadway in New York City.  Tickets for the bear will be sold all weekend with the drawing taking place on Sunday.  You do not have to be present at the Sunday show to win the prize.

          In addition, the Western Wayne Band Parents will also have refreshments available for purchase at the show will all proceeds benefiting Western Wayne Band students.

          Many band, chorus, and a variety of other students are involved in the production.  Western Wayne Drama Club students in grades 8 through 12 have been hard at work on the musical since December.  Students are involved in a variety of facets from playing roles on stage, to building and moving sets as stage crew members, to playing musical instruments in the pit band.

          This is a very special production for all involved especially for some senior cast members.  One such student is R.J. Clemens who has performed on stage with Western Wayne musical productions since his 8th grade year when he played a Wicksham Brother in Seussical.  He moved on to playing lead roles for the rest of his high school career including taking on the roles of Shrek in Shrek, Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, Jimmy Winters in Nice Work if You Can Get It, and now Oliver Warbucks in Annie.

          “It’s always a lot of fun to work on productions like these,” R.J. said.  “I get to make a lot of new friends and create many memories.”

          R.J. has enjoyed all of his roles in Western Wayne musicals.  He names the “100 Ways Ballet,” which was a fantasy dance sequence from Bye Bye Birdie in which his love interest imagines different ways to end his life, as one of his favorites because of its uniqueness along with the musical number “I Don’t Need Anything But You” from this year’s production.

          “I really think the audience will enjoy this piece because it’s when Annie and Warbucks’ relationship as father and daughter is solidified,” R.J. explained.  “We get to share a special song and dance together in front of the entire mansion staff, who have been hoping for this happy moment since first meeting Annie’s character.”

          Eighth grader Amanda David makes her Western Wayne musical debut in the title role.  This is Amanda’s first leading role in a production, and she is thrilled to share what she and the rest of the cast have been working on with the community this weekend.

          “I saw Annie on Broadway when I was younger,” Amanda explained.  “This is a role I have always wanted to play, and I can’t wait to do it for an audience.”

          Amanda is delighted to share the stage with some of her eighth grade classmates who play orphans including: Larissa Ellsworth who plays Tessie; Jenna Frable who plays Pepper; and Julia Phillips who plays Kate.

          “My favorite part about playing Kate is when she has lines annoying Miss Hannigan,” Julia explained.  “I also really enjoy the musical number ‘Little Girls’ because of how different it is.”

          In “Little Girls,” Hannigan sings about her never-ending frustrations of having to be around the girls in the orphanage.  During it, all of the orphans do a contemporary-style dance in which they move like puppets being manipulated by Hannigan.

          The rest of the orphans are played by Natasha Orehek as Molly, Haley Strocchia as July, and Ava Compton as Duffy.

          “It’s awesome to work with so many talented students in each scene,” Amanda said.

          Another one of these talented students is none other than Miss Hannigan herself played by junior Sydney Peet.

          Sydney has been a part of the ensemble for previous Western Wayne productions with this being her first year playing a leading role.

          “I really enjoy playing a character that has sides to her personality that are different from how I usually act,” Sydney explained.  “It’s fun to play Hannigan when she is flirtatious or creating conflict with other characters.”

          One such moment is during Act One when Hannigan and Grace Farrell, Oliver Warbucks’ secretary played by junior Andie Solimine, have an argument about how long Annie should stay with Warbucks while pulling back and forth on one of the orphan’s dolls.

          Sydney also shares the stage with two other cast mates who have many comical moments in the show.  Junior John Nichols plays Rooster Hannigan and sophomore Lily Visceglia plays his girlfriend Lily St. Regis.  The two conspire with Hannigan to get the money Warbucks eventually offers to find Annie’s parents.  The three sing about their big plans for living a life of luxury in the musical number “Easy Street.”

          Another character in Annie who actually wants to help Oliver Warbucks in his quest to find Annie’s real parents is none other than President Roosevelt played by sophomore Alex Taylor.  Roosevelt, also, has many funny moments throughout Act Two, especially when he leads his Cabinet in a rendition of “Tomorrow” in hopes of rising their spirits to help him come up with the idea of the historically infamous “New Deal.”

          “One of my favorite parts is when I get to sing my solo in the Cabinet scene,” Alex said.  “It’s really neat to get to play a character as iconic as Roosevelt for my first role in a musical production.  This is my first year in chorus and after seeing last year’s musical I knew that I really wanted to get involved with it and experience what it’s like to be on stage.”           Alex takes the stage with all of the other students involved in Western Wayne Drama Club’s production of Annie on Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the high school.  Everyone involved invites the community to come out and see these talented students shine in the telling of this classic musical perfect for all ages.  

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